A few tips to help you successfully hunt with a black powder, muzzle loading rifle or pistol.
Know your load:
Ballistics of the heavier, less aerodynamic projectiles typically shot by muzzle loading rifles are different than those of most cartridge firing deer rifles. Most muzzle loader bullets are comparatively big and slow, which means they drop more over distance, but deflect less when they hit small stuff along the flight path, like small tree branches. If you know your load, you can use these characteristics to your advantage. If you don’t know your load, they will cause you to miss… or worse yet, hit the deer in a way that only injures it, without making a clean kill.
While some black powder shooters prefer gun powder in the powdered form, many use pre-formed cylindrical powder pellets that make it easy to load a light (1 pellet), standard (2 pellets), or high/magnum (3 pellets) charge, depending on intended use. Different charges will result in different bullet drop profiles… which impacts point of aim/point of impact. Regardless of what bullet and charge you use, you must understand the ballistics of your load in order to take an ethical shot while hunting.
Know your gun:
One of the lessons I learned the hard way is that many black powder rifles have triggers with a light pull and very little creep. The first time I took the CVA .50 Caliber Optima V2 Muzzle loader Rifle into the field to hunt I saw a big deer standing by the ladder to my stand as I started walking to get in the stand. I stopped, ranged it with the range finder… right at 100 yards, so I knew my vertical hold. As I raised the rifle to my shoulder and placed my finger on the trigger in anticipation of the shot, the rifle fired… well before I had gotten it aimed at the deer. I shot probably 20 feet over it’s head. Simply put, I was new enough to the rifle that I was not prepared for the super light trigger. Luckily, it was just embarrassing and nobody got hurt.
Have a reload plan:
Sometimes the adrenaline of the moment makes you miss, but the deer, not sure where the shot came from, doesn’t know which way to run and freezes in place. If you have your next powder charge, bullet, and primer ready to go, and have practiced, you might be able to reload quickly and take a 2nd shot. If you are unprepared and unpracticed, consider your muzzle loader a “one chance and you are done” rifle.
Protect your powder and primer in the field:
Unlike a cartridge fed rifle, a muzzle loader has to have a hole where the powder is exposed so that a spark can be supplied to ignite it. Modern muzzle loaders, like the CVA .50 Caliber Optima V2 Muzzle loader Rifle, use small percussion caps or shotgun primers to ignite the powder. Older muzzle loaders may use a small flash pan with powder sitting in it and a flint striking steel to ignite the powder. Either way, unlike a sealed cartridge, the powder can be ruined by moisture. If you are hunting in high humidity, rain, snow, or conditions where dew can form, take extra care to keep the powder in your loaded muzzle loader dry, as well as your spare powder.
Bring the right gun:
There are lots of options in the black powder rifle market, and even some compelling black powder hunting pistols. Bring the gun with the appropriate ballistics and other characteristics for the hunt. ie. If you are hunting from a robust elevated blind with a strong shooting rail, overlooking a 200 yard shooting lane, then a long, heavy Kentucky muzzle loader might be the way to go. Try lugging that big heavy beast while still hunting on foot in the brush and you will likely wish you had brought a smaller, lighter black powder rifle.
*many of the links will take you to a trusted retail site where you will find additional product info and can the CVA .50 Caliber Optima V2 Muzzle loader Rifle with Konus Pro scope, if you like. Other articles you might find interesting: